Despite choosing to pursue a career as a solicitor, I have always enjoyed public speaking and the limited amounts of advocacy provided on the LPC and PSC course. So when a fellow trainee asked if a group of us would like to join forces to represent TLT in a mediation competition, I volunteered immediately. At this time I was in my third seat in Commercial Dispute Resolution, which seemed apt.
The mediation skills competition was run by the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators and our fellow competitors included the likes of 39 Essex Chambers, Falcon Chambers, Linklaters and Osborne Clarke (amongst others). We competed in a number of scenarios against tough competition and much to our surprise, we somehow ended up in the final. While we ultimately came second overall to Kings Chambers, the experience was invaluable. We also came home with the ‘most creative solution’ prize. At trainee level, you aren’t expected to be involved in the actual mediation with the other side and so it was a fantastic opportunity to try this first hand.
One of the things that I have really appreciated as a trainee at TLT is how supportive every team has been for their trainees to get involved with extra-curricular activities. Partners Chris Owen and Kerry Gwyther took time out of their busy schedules to provide mediation tips and specific points on the scenarios ahead of the competition.
This competition was a fantastic opportunity to step out of our comfort zones, develop confidence in public speaking and to advance the ability to think on our feet.
For me personally, the mediation competition ended up proving invaluable as the following week, I was asked by a partner in CDR if I would be willing to represent a client in the County Court. Ignoring the obvious nerves, I agreed to take on the challenge, reassured by the fact that the claimant wasn’t expected to turn up, he hadn’t filed any evidence and we had a solid limitation defence to rely upon.
On the day of the hearing, I travelled up to London and eventually navigated the maze of the Thomas More building at the back of the Royal Courts of Justice. Once in the courtroom, it’s fair to say that a few curveballs were thrown. The claimant decided to attend the hearing and provided a large bundle of evidence that we had never seen before. The judge allowed me a 10 minute recess to review the bundle, allowing me just enough time to call the partner back in Bristol for some reassurance. In addition, the claimant’s evidence nullified my main defence, which meant that I was invited to cross-examine him (something I hadn’t done since the LPC). While this was nerve-wracking, it was a great feeling of accomplishment. After a four hour long hearing, the judge ruled in our client’s favour and the claimant’s claim was struck out.
This is an experience that I will look back on as a highlight of my training contract, and I was lucky to have been offered this opportunity. While advocacy opportunities are not common, they can be sought out. If you’re in a litigation seat, it is worth bearing in mind that there could be chances for you to advocate, so make sure you say yes!
Hatti Burge is a solicitor for TLT, working in the Banking and Restructuring team, based in the Bristol office.